The Attention Erosion Of The Web

Much of Nicholas Carr’s book The Shallows is devoted to exploring how our changing technological habits, particularly Web use, may be contributing to the gradual erosion of our attention span. Carr writes:

“Hyperlinks are designed to grab our attention. Their value as navigational tools is inextricable from the distraction they cause”.

It’s interesting to think one of the Web’s most fundamental attributes: the hyperlink, may be unintentionally causing our mental attention spans to shorten.
Maybe yes, but hyperlinks are intrinsic to the Web on such a significant level, I would equate their function with one of the most important core building blocks of the interactive experience. So it becomes difficult if not impossible to imagine a Web site or application without them.

Hyperlinks are the primary mechanism by which information is interconnected and referenced. As the number of Web pages grow exponentially each year, hyperlinks provide us with a logical way to make sense of the increasingly complex digital architectures we are creating. Yet Carr’s book suggests hyperlinks form an underlying, almost subliminal, layer of distraction upon our mind because they encourage us to skip from page to page skimming, as opposed to reading fully, the material being displayed.

In terms of SEO, hyperlinks dispersed throughout a Web page give information context and help Google and other search-engines index (anchor) a page’s place on the Web relative to other pages. Now imagine if Google can’t find your Web page, one could ask, does it really exist?

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